Monday, September 22, 2014

My Thoughts On Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

Dear Maya,
First of all, let me congratulate you on surviving junior high.  That is probably your most important accomplishment to date.
Next in importance, however, is that you managed to snag an agent, then a publisher -- all before you got a drivers' license!  Impressive.  Very impressive, young lady.
I certainly hope your writing career continues.  But, as a woman who's taught junior high school English for many, many years, let me give you one crucial piece of advice: in your next book, don't let the adults edit out your voice.
You see, Maya is barely there in Popular.  Oh, I can see you peaking through in the basic idea of the book: wacky 13-year-old attempts to live out decades-old beauty advice.  (Fun!)  And you're there in the scenes that no adult who doesn't work in a school would know: the lockdowns, the hallway harassment.  But otherwise, you've been replaced with Pollyana, the perfect girl who never does anything wrong, and her perfect friends and perfectly just life in which good intentions and wholesomeness are rewarded by people turning out to be nice.
You mention at the end of Popular that it began as a "rant-filled journal."  That's the book I'd love to read.  I bet it was filled with voice and passion, unlike the Sunday School lesson that's left of it.
You're older now.  Don't let the editors smooth you out into blandness.  You've got your foot in the door of the publishing world; now kick and scream and be REAL.
I wish you all the best.

Dear Editors of Popular,
Shame on you!!
How dare you edit out the life and spirit of this girl!
Do you expect anyone to believe what's left?  Where are the nasty, jealous girls who try to sabotage Maya's success?  Where are the nasty, jealous mothers of those girls?  Where are the kids complaining about anything?  How is it that every student and every parent thinks the teachers are all perfect?  Where's Maya's homework?  How is it that she never, ever squabbles with her family?
This poor young writer obviously originally had spunk and talent, but you've killed it.  How long will it take her to relearn what you've smoothed over into Pollyana Goes To Sunday School Where Everyone Is Pleasant And Good People Are Well-Liked?  She wrote about LIFE.  You killed it.
I hope her editors are better for her next book.

Dear Readers,
If you loathe faith-promoting stories and unrealistic characters, skip this book; it's been edited into mush.
However, if you'd like to dig through the banality to find the real story that occasionally slips through, and if you'd like to s

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